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The Short Form

“Black Ball”

Mario Bellatin

Excerpt

According to his grandmother, the story of the Caravan of Toothless Souls came to a close the night government forces rounded up Japanese immigrants to ship them off to concentration camps in the United States. The neighbor and her husband committed suicide that very night. My grandmother told me that they’d asked her to look after their young children just a few hours before. The little boy was very fat and the little girl very skinny. She also told me that an hour later they heard a gunshot, and then another. The husband first killed his wife and then committed suicide. The neighbor had asked her to hide the children well. The fat one and the skinny one. To care for them as if they were her own. But my grandfather turned the children over to the police shortly after the shots rang out. I think it was partly by way of excusing him that my grandmother sometimes told me how hard times were back then. That I shouldn’t condemn my grandfather’s actions or those of the rest of my family. I think it is because of their actions that I understand all the better Bohumil Hrabal as he clambered out on that ledge, saying he was going to scare off the pigeons. They say that his fall was deafening. That he showed not a trace of the elegance with which a bird executes its final flight. Actually, birds die huddled in some remote corner of nature.

We read it in The Buenos Aires Review.

Full story online.